Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford -1868 – Perth

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Galatea.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1868 – Perth

At Perth I visited the convict settlement; and there I found a relative or connection of the Beresford family, who had been so unfortunate as to be transported for forgery. He appeared to be a most respectable old gentleman, and (with the permission of the governor) I presented him with a small cheque. Alas! incredible as it may seem, the sight of my signature awoke the ruling passion; and my gentleman promptly forged a bill of exchange for £50, and (as I found when I came home) got it cashed.

It was in Perth, too, that I visited a prisoner, a fellow Irishman, who had been convicted of murder. He had been a soldier, and had slain his corporal and his sergeant. This man inspired me with some ideas with regard to criminals which later in life I tried to put into practice; and also aroused in me an interest in prisons and prison discipline which I have always retained. He was a gigantic person, of immense physical strength, with receding forehead and a huge projecting jaw. He was considered to be dangerous; five or six warders accompanied me into his cell; and they spoke to him as though he were a dog. I looked at the man’s eyes; and I was convinced then, as I am convinced now, that his intellect was impaired. Criminal psychology then hardly existed; and although it is now recognised as a science, it must be said that existing penal conditions are still in many respects awaiting reform. Subsequent experience has proved to me that I was right in believing that many crimes of violence are due to a lesion of the brain, and cannot therefore be treated as moral offences. I heard some time subsequently that the Irishman had been shot for the attempted murder of a warder. Perth and New South Wales were the only places in the British Dominions in which there was a death penalty for attempted murder.

I may here mention that in after years I was appointed, together with the (late) Duke of Fife, as civil inspector of prisons; an office which I held for a year or two. I was able to institute a reform in the system then in force of mulcting prisoners of good conduct marks. These were deducted in advance, before the man had earned them, if he gave trouble. A prisoner sentenced to a long term; who usually gives trouble during his first two years; found, when he began to run straight, that good marks he earned had been deducted in advance. I was able to change the system, so that no marks should be deducted before they were earned.

It was after I had been placed in command of the police at Alexandria, in [1882], that I was offered the post of chief commissioner of police in the Metropolis; and I was honoured by a gracious message from a very distinguished personage, expressing a hope that I would accept the appointment; but, as I wished to remain in the Navy, I declined it.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.


Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

HMS Galatea on Wikipedia